In March, Steven J. Zwick, former San Miguel County attorney, will be honored with a Distinguished Achievement in the Public Sector Award as a part of the University of Colorado Law School’s annual alumni awards.
Zwick retired in 2018 after 40 years working in public service as an attorney. He began his tenure as the San Miguel County attorney in February 1994, a position he held for 24 years.
Zwick grew up in High Falls, New York, 80 miles north of New York City, in the state’s Hudson Valley. Upon graduating from Harpur College at SUNY Binghamton in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in history, Zwick moved to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado Law School, earning a J.D. in 1977. He went on to earn an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's mid-career program in 1991.
Before moving to Telluride, Zwick served as assistant county attorney and county attorney in Garfield and La Plata counties, respectively. During the 1980s, La Plata County was experiencing significant land use impacts from coal bed methane gas development.
“While I was the La Plata County Attorney, I was involved in the county's development of one of the first local government efforts in Colorado to regulate the land use impacts associated with oil and gas development,” Zwick said.
He also worked as a staff attorney with Colorado Rural Legal Services in Trinidad and Grand Junction, which, he said, was a federally funded civil legal services program at the time.
Zwick’s accomplishments as San Miguel County attorney include incorporating the Town of Mountain Village, negotiating a way to finance the then-new gondola system and preserving the 600-acre Valley Floor.
San Miguel County Commissioner Kris Holstrom said Zwick was always on top of his legal game, brought consistency to the county and was able to answer any question thrown at him.
“I think he reviewed most everything in the county and where deficient or unclear, helped fix it,” Holstrom said.
Current county attorney Amy Markwell said Zwick’s outstanding legal research, legal reasoning, practical application of the law and commitment to public service made him a “phenomenal lawyer and an esteemed county attorney.”
“San Miguel County has benefitted greatly from Zwick’s dedication to public service and the guidance he provided during his tenure has contributed to its strength and stability,” she said. “I am grateful to him and his work on behalf of San Miguel County on a daily basis.”
To commemorate his retirement, the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners made Feb. 9, 2018, as Steven J. Zwick Day.
The proclamation notes: "Every decision made by San Miguel County Commissioners in the past 24 years has been a reflection of his wisdom. … Steve Zwick embodies the best qualities in a county attorney, including: honor, integrity, pragmatism, wisdom, and fairness."
County Commissioner Hilary Cooper explained that Zwick had deep knowledge of state statutes that apply to counties, and he was able to successfully represent San Miguel County on several access issues that could have been too challenging to take on or easily lost by someone with less knowledge.
“Steve was also absolutely dedicated to public service,” she said. “With his legal experience, he could have made significant money in private practice but instead he chose to dedicate his career to public service and the strength and stability of San Miguel County is due in great part to Steve. This award is well deserved.”
Now in its 39th year, the annualColorado law alumni awards banquet is the University of Colorado Law School's signature alumni event, where the university celebrates community and honors distinguished alumni who have demonstrated leadership and service in the community and legal profession, outstanding achievements, service to the University of Colorado, including CU Law School, and who demonstrate commitment to diversity, professionalism and ethics.
"Throughout his career Steve established his reputation in his community and across the state of Colorado as an exceptional lawyer,” one of Zwick’s nominators wrote. “His sharp mind, remarkable knowledge of the law along with the ethical foundation of all of his decisions and recommendations, gained him respect near and far."
Zwick considers the CU Law School's distinguished alumni award meaningful since it’s recognition from his peers who value the contributions that he has made to local government law in Colorado over the course of his long legal career.
“Among the guiding principles that I have endeavored to observe over the years is try to leave things better than I found them,” Zwick said. “To learn from one's mistakes, to be candid with my clients, to appreciate the significance of what one does not know in the evaluation of possible courses of action, to beware of the law of unintended consequences, and to provide legal, not political, advice to my clients.”
Zwick will receive the award at the Colorado Law Alumni Awards banquet March 12 at Empower Field at Mile High.